Early Childhood Education: Stakeholders’ Perspectives about Kindergarten Readiness in Mississippi
Leffler, Jeffrey L.
AdvisorBrenner, Devon G.
CommitteeKing, Stephanie B.
Parker, Julie C.
This qualitative study examined the perceptions and understandings of various stakeholders in the early childhood sector of Mississippi about kindergarten readiness in response to the implementation of more rigorous academic standards in kindergarten. The participants (N=20) in this study were parent/guardians and teachers at 2 elementary schools in Mississippi and various preschool programs that feed into them including public pre-K, private child care, and Head Start. These perceptions and understandings were compared with official documents including position statements of professional organizations and learning standards. The results of the study provide insight into the perceptions and understandings of the participants as they experience the readiness process from preschool through participation in kindergarten. The qualitative analysis showed that as more rigorous standards have been implemented in kindergarten, all stakeholder groups are experiencing high levels of pressure related to the testing and accountability requirements related to the standards. This has caused a mismatch between the stated values of kindergarten teachers and the practices they reportedly use as they shift to what I conceptualized as more environmental-behaviorist teaching methods versus the social-constructivist, play-based methods they believe to be more effective. The analysis also revealed a breakdown in communication as kindergarten teachers expect the other stakeholder groups to come to them to see what is happening in kindergarten. This is driven by a mismatch between the standards and actual practices. A surprising finding is that the perceived job satisfaction of preschool teachers seems to have improved as they see themselves in a more vital role in the readiness process. This study is organized into five chapters. Chapter I provides an overview and rationale for the study. Chapter II includes a review of the literature which includes historical perspectives about kindergarten readiness, theories of kindergarten readiness, domains of readiness, and stakeholder perspectives of kindergarten readiness. Chapter III provides the methodology for the study. Chapter IV presents the findings from the analysis of data. Chapter V provides a discussion of the findings, suggestions for future research, and implications for practice.